Doctoral graduate’s paper earns top honor from Academy of Management HR Division

July 25, 2016

The B-School recently sat down with Pingshu Li, who successfully defended his dissertation to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in business. In August, Li will join the faculty of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Li is a scholar of human resource management, and he studied closely under Interim Dean Jim Guthrie during his time at KU.

On Aug. 9, the Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management will honor Li and Guthrie with the Best Student Convention Paper Award, which is given to the student who is the sole or first author on the best paper accepted by the program committee for the academy’s annual conference. Their paper, “Collective Turnover: The Loss of Human Capital and Stars,” is based on Li’s dissertation.

Pingshu Li

Pingshu Li

Why did you choose collective turnover as your topic of study?

This is two-fold. First, nowadays, long-term employment relationships and job security has been largely eroded. According to recent reports, every year about 40 percent of employees quit their job, no matter whether it is voluntary or involuntary; it is larger actually. But, the collective turnover not only affects employees and their leaders but also affects the organization performance. So we needed to study turnover at a higher level above employees, like organization- or unit-level.

On the other hand, that is because of recent theoretical advancement in this area, some theories and models haven’t been fully examined empirically, especially regarding “who is leaving” and “how many are leaving,” so this is the topic this dissertation tries to solve.

How would you explain your work in laymen’s terms?

Simply, this is about employees who leave their organization (and we call this collective turnover) and its consequences on the unit or the organization and its performance.

How do you foresee your findings on the loss in social and human capital affecting different companies in the future?

The findings from my dissertation have an implication for companies, especially knowledge-based companies, about how to deal with the turnover and the retention. We need to keep the employees who are highly productive, but the dissertation is also about keeping employees who are team players, who are collaborative with colleagues. It is crucial for companies to retain the star employees or performers who are super productive and highly visible to the market, especially for those star employees who are very accountable for their peers’ performance. Their departures are noticeable.

In your opinion, what sets your research apart from other similar studies?

While this dissertation extends to existing research in collective turnover, a pretty dynamic research area in human resource management, it has an edge in answering the questions that current research in this area has not answered. Especially, it answers the different consequences from quality versus quantity of collective turnover.

How has your mentorship with Jim Guthrie played a role in your field of study?

He’s a great man. He provided great support, not only for this dissertation but also for my entire doctoral studies here. But more importantly, he’s a great scholar and always produces high-quality research. He’s a role model for me and inspires me to do high-quality research of my own.

What is one key idea that you will take from this process going forward in your future career?

I think it’s all about motivation and how much I really enjoy my work.

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